The singer who called herself Barbara became an icon of French music in her lifetime and remained beloved decades after her death. Born Monique Andrée Serf, Barbara was ten when her family went into hiding during the German occupation. After the war, she studied music in Paris at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique before leaving for Brussels, where she began performing under her stage name in 1950. She returned to Paris in 1952, singing and playing piano in small clubs with little success, mainly performing hits by Edith Piaf and other French torch singers. She recorded her first single in 1957, but it wasn’t until she performed her own material at the Theatre des Capucines in 1963 that she began to build real popularity. Her 1964 album Barbara chante Barbara won the Grand Prix du Disque and her moving 1966 song “Göttingen” was hailed for its success in bridging the French-German divide after the war. After her death, the city of Göttingen named a street in her honor. In 1982 she was honored with a Grand Prix du Disque for her contributions to French music, and in 1988 earned the Legion of Honor for her AIDS activism. Her final, self-titled 1996 album sold over a million copies in twelve hours.
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Jewish Women's Archive. "Barbara (Monique Andree Serf)." (Viewed on May 6, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/barbara>.